If a child can't learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn.

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Visual Research Reports

Mrs. Zavon (teaches Math and Social Studies to 4th and 5th grade) and Mrs. Hallett (our Media Specialist) worked very hard creating eBooks with the 4th and 5th graders.  I really wanted to do another research project this year, so after collaborating with both of them, we decided to do research papers on historical figures from Florida’s history.  Mrs. Zavon provided us with the list she wanted the students to research, and Mrs. Hallett worked with us on the researching process.

Once the students were given the graphic organizer that we provided, they narrowed down their search to only 2-3 websites.  Mrs. Hallett showed the students how to use a new search tool, Sweetsearch, which only searches a defined, safe list of websites. Next, I spent a couple of classes reteaching the students how to take notes.  I really wanted to focus on writing the information in their own words, writing phrases rather than complete sentences, looking up unknown words, and organizing the information to match the graphic organizer.  This took a lot more time than I initially had planned, but it was worth it.  Most of the students were able to write a nice four paragraph essay explaining his/her Floridian.  Some students required more editing than others, but overall, it was a success.

Rather than finishing once the essays were complete, Mrs. Hallett introduced the class to  thinglinks, so the students could create a visual representation of their work.  The first step was for the students to find a Creative Commons image to use as a visual picture for their project. The students really enjoyed finding images, videos, quotes, and other biographical sites to add to their reports.  Mrs. Hallett did a spectacular job teaching the importance of citing the images properly. Each item was represented by an icon, or “nubbin” in ThingLink lingo. To ensure consistency across their interactive, visual report, Mrs. Hallett chose the type of nubbin for each type of media content. The students are really proud of the finished products, and will be adding them to their blogs. Please take a look at one of the finished essays below: (you can get a better idea of the thinglink by clicking on the link at the bottom).

Ariella’s thinglink


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Great things are happening….

This week, my 5th graders taught a lesson (as a group) to the 3rd graders on how to write a Quality Comment.

Then, the 5th graders paired with the 3rd graders to help them use the skills they were taught to write quality comments on the 4th graders’ blogs.  Each 5th grader worked with 1-2 3rd graders, and the results were quite impressive.  I was amazed with the patience, enthusiasm, and true knowledge of the content they each shared with the 3rd graders.  Here is an example of one of their comments:

Dear Zach,

That was a cool video. I like reading. Now I like baseball. Was that video made because you like
baseball? And why do you like baseball? What are your favorite baseball teams?

Thank you,

Here is an example of a typical 5th grader’s comment:

Dear Julia,

I totally agree that you do have an awesome blog! I love the theme of your blog because it has warm, bright, and cheerful colors. My blog is a bright shade of green, with sparkles, and a butterfly. For the text at the top I wrote, “Make Fantasies Become A Reality”. I love this blog, and what you write about.

Just like you, I as well have an after school activity. I do dance with you, and I do volleyball. I used to do running and swimming, but this summer I am planning on running with my dad at night. Are you going to run with your mom or dad over the summer?

I as well like blue, but I also like black, white, green, yellow, and purple. In Jewish Studies, we are studying the colors of flags. Each individual flag has a color for a reason, which is what my class and I are trying to figure out. Anyways, I like blue because it means freedom and justice. I adore the color white because it means peace, and I think that there should be peace everywhere. I admire the color green because it symbolizes Earth and nature, and I love to interact, study, and learn about nature. I love the color yellow because I feel like it stands for doing the right thing, such as being honest, and I am very good at doing the right thing. I admire the color purple because to me, it seems neutral. In other words, if there is an argument, I would be neutral, I would try to fix the problem instead of siding with one person. Just to summarize, no favorites. Last, but certainly not least, black. Black might seem like a sad and dull color, but to me, it represents determination and courage. Why are your favorite color pink and blue?

I also think that blogging is important because I get to express myself. I get to tell the world about what I am doing, learning, and so much more! I love writing because I can be creative, and that is part of the reason why I like blogging.

I love how you love working on the iPads because that is one little jump towards 21st century. I have my own iPad Mini and an iPod touch. What to you have?

Again, I love your blog, I now know a lot about you, and I hope that we can continue to communicate.

We also started to discuss our next phase of our poetry book that we have been working on.  The students came up with so many questions.

  • When will we publish it?
  • What will we charge?
  • Will we do an e-book, a paperback, or both?
  • Who will our audience be?
  • How will we market it?

So many questions, and so much to do…The students developed a list of jobs (with my guidance) that would be needed to begin to answer these questions.  Once the job list was complete, they had to determine what job would best suit each of them.  Each student developed a resume and applied for one of the positions.  I was thrilled to see that they each applied for positions, which really emphasized their strengths.  Based on the individual resumes, we ended up hiring a VP of Finance,  two students to be the VP’s of Marketing, a VP of Design, an editor, a publishing liaison, a VP of Public Relations, and a VP of Business.  They all have a list of their job descriptions and they will be reporting directly to Mike Fisher and myself on a weekly basis.  This project will continue into next year.  The 4th graders will also be choosing the areas that they feel suit each of them, so they can be on a collaborative team with the 5th graders.


My fourth graders began to work on our final research paper this week.  They each chose an important person to research from Florida’s history.  Mrs.Hallett, our 21st Century librarian,  helped them determine the proper search engine to use.  They had to find 2-3 websites to obtain the necessary information listed on the graphic organizer that was provided for them. Next, I taught them a lesson on proper note-taking techniques.  Finally, they took notes to use on their essays.  We will be writing the papers this week, and then Mrs.Hallett will be guiding us in creating a thinglink. I look forward to sharing the finished product in a couple of weeks (hopefully).